How To Choose The Right HVAC Filters For Your Home

Ensuring your home has the cleanest air is an important but seemingly complicated job. There are many different kinds of air filters on the market to choose from, with each one accomplishing a different job. Having a high-quality air filter will ensure that your home has consistently high quality air throughout the seasons.

Depending on your home’s needs, there are many filters to compare. The largest point of comparison for HVAC filters is based on the MERV rating scale.

What is a MERV rating?

MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, indicates the effectiveness of a filter’s ability to remove and filter out airborne particulates and harmful allergens that might be in your air. This rating scale goes from a rating of 1, the lowest quality, to 20, the highest quality.

MERV ratings are great indicators for your filters, as they can help you make an informed decision based on the kind of filtration needed for your indoor air quality. The caveat is that your HVAC system has a maximum MERV rating, so replacing a filter with a higher-than-needed MERV rating can decrease the amount of airflow your home receives. The highest MERV ratings are reserved for places like hospitals – not homes.

Check your HVAC system’s manual to see what the maximum MERV rating is for your system. This will make your decision for a new filter much easier, as it cuts down on the number of filters to compare.

Different Types of HVAC Air Filters


Fiberglass filters have a MERV rating between 1-5, indicating that they are the lowest in keeping your air filtered and clean. These filters are disposable and contain layers of fiberglass and metal to prevent the filter from collapsing. A major benefit to fiberglass filters is their affordability, which allows for high accessibility – but they don’t offer a lot in regard to purifying your home’s air.

Pleated Media Filters

Pleated filters are disposable like fiberglass filters, but they have a MERV rating between 5-13, depending on the efficiency level. These filters have a large and varying range of versions, allowing them to have a varied MERV rating – not all pleated filters are created equal.

The pleats within the filter allow for a higher filtration capacity. Depending on the kind of pleated filter you choose, they can be as affordable as fiberglass filters.

Reusable/Washable FiltersĀ 

Although the upfront cost of reusable filters is more than pleated or fiberglass filters, they allow for longer use as they can be washed and returned to your HVAC system once dried. These filters allow for sustainability, but they require a lot more work to get maximum usage.

The largest downside to these filters, other than the higher cost, is that they have a low MERV rating, which is between 1-4. This is due to the fact that they have a high chance of developing mold if they are not washed and dried properly before being put back into your HVAC system.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters, also known as “High Efficiency Particulate Air” filters, are the highest quality air filters on the market. They are a kind of pleated, mechanical air filter that provides the highest level of protection against airborne particulates. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they can remove any airborne particulate that is the size of 0.3 microns, which is one of the smallest sizes of particulate entering your airways.

HEPA filters have the highest MERV rating, meaning that any harmful particulate in your air can be filtered and caught within its pleats. Their high MERV rating means that the cost of HEPA filters will be more expensive than that of the other filters mentioned.

If you or someone in your home is allergen-prone or immunocompromised, the HEPA filter is your best bet for your HVAC system.

How frequently should I replace my HVAC filters?

Keep in mind that HVAC filters require regular maintenance, especially if you’re using the unit frequently. To ensure your home has constant, high-quality air, cleaning and replacing the filters every 2-3 months will ensure your home has the highest indoor air quality as possible.

The more you use your system, the more often you need to replace your filters.

If you have any questions on what kind of filter your HVAC system and family needs, contact one of our professionals at Big Mountain Air to help guide your filter replacement needs.